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Social housing: Tenants in state and community housing

Overview of the social housing system

Public and Community Housing Management Act 1992, s 110

The government provides subsidised rental housing through state-owned housing managed by Kāinga Ora (Housing New Zealand) and also through around 60 community housing organisations such as churches, iwi and housing trusts.

The 63,000 state houses managed by Kāinga Ora (Housing NZ) provide homes for over 184,000 people, including tenants and their families. There’s a waiting list to get into state houses.

Local councils also provide a range of rental housing, but this is separate from central government’s subsidised rental housing system (see: “What is local council housing?” below).

Government-subsidised housing and local council housing are now often referred to as “social housing”.

Which government agency does what in the social housing system?

The Ministry of Social Development (not Kāinga Ora/Housing NZ) is responsible for:

  • assessing whether you qualify for social housing
  • deciding what your position on the waiting list will be, which will depend on your level of housing need (your “priority rating”)
  • assessing what your income-related rent will be once a place comes up for you, and reviewing your rent each year
  • reviewing at different times whether you continue to qualify for social housing once you’re in a social housing property
  • funding Housing New Zealand and community housing providers
  • managing debt and fraud related to social housing.

Your landlord will be either Kāinga Ora or a community housing provider such as a church or iwi organisation. The role of these landlords includes:

  • matching prospective tenants to particular properties
  • preparing and managing tenancy agreements
  • starting and ending tenancies
  • charging and collecting rent
  • maintaining the properties and doing repairs
  • transferring tenants between properties
  • buying, selling and developing properties.

To be able to get funding from the government, community housing providers have to be registered with the Community Housing Regulatory Authority (part of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)). The Authority’s role is to make sure that community housing providers provide good quality homes, have good tenancy management services, and are well-managed financially.

Issues to do with bonds are dealt with by Tenancy Services at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) (see: “Rent, bonds and other costs”). Disputes with your housing provider can be taken to mediation and, if necessary, to the Tenancy Tribunal, just like tenancy disputes with private landlords (see: “The Tenancy Tribunal: A court to decide tenancy disputes”).

Who are “community housing providers”?

Public and Community Housing Management Act 1992, Parts 8, 10

These include church and iwi organisations and housing trusts and foundations. They have to register with the Community Housing Regulatory Authority and meet the required standards. As of May 2023, there were 72 organisations registered with the Authority. Find a list of registered community housing providers here (or, go to: chra.hud.govt.nz and search “register”).

The Community Housing Regulatory Authority supervises and monitors community housing providers. It does this annually for each organisation, checking them against the performance standards they’re required to meet, and it will also investigate if there are complaints from tenants. The Authority can suspend or revoke an organisation’s registration if appropriate.

What is local council housing?

Local councils operate their own rental housing, some of which they subsidise. Wellington City Council, for example, provides around 8 percent of all residential rental properties in the city. Local council social housing is separate from the system of central government funding for Kāinga Ora (Housing NZ) and community housing providers. A key difference is that local council housing rent isn’t subsidised by the government through what’s called the “income related rent subsidy”. This means that rent for local council housing is based on market rent rather than your income.

Contact your local council to find out about what council housing might be available in your area (contact details for each council are available at www.govt.nz/organisations).

Councils often aim to provide for housing needs that aren’t met by the other main social housing providers such as Kāinga Ora. For example, Kāinga Ora provides mainly two- and three-bedroom accommodation, Wellington City Council provides mainly bedsits and one-bedroom flats, and therefore most WCC tenants are single people and couples without children. Similarly, Christchurch City Council provides mainly one-bedroom units. Some city councils provide subsidised rental housing for older people.

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Tenancy and housing

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Tenancy Services – Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)

MBIE’s Tenancy Services section provides information to tenants and to landlords. It also provides dispute-resolution services.

Website: www.tenancy.govt.nz
Tenancy advice: 0800 83 62 62 (0800 TENANCY). Free translation services are available.
Bond enquiries: 0800 737 666. Free translation services are available.

Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income (WINZ)

Work and Income assess eligibility for social housing provided by Kāinga Ora and other registered community housing providers. WINZ also calculates income-related rent for social housing and conducts tenancy reviews.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/index.html
Phone: 0800 559 009
Email: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/nowhere-to-stay/index.html
Email: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/find-a-house/who-can-get-public-housing.html
Email: www.workandincome.govt.nz/housing/find-a-house/apply-for-public-housing.html

Kāinga Ora (formerly Housing New Zealand)

Kāinga Ora manages New Zealand’s public housing and places people in public homes.  Kāinga Ora’s website provides information for existing and prospective tenants.

Website: www.kaingaora.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 801 601
Office locations: kaingaora.govt.nz/our-locations
When to contact Kāinga Ora vs Work and Income resource: kaingaora.govt.nz/tenants-and-communities/renting-a-home

Note: to apply for a Kāinga Ora home, you need to contact Work and Income – “Ministry of Social Development – Work and Income (WINZ)” above.

Tenancy Tribunal

The Tenancy Tribunal can help you if you have an issue with a tenant or landlord that you can’t solve yourself. The Tribunal will hear both sides of the argument and can issue an order that is legally binding.

Information on how to apply to the Tenancy Tribunal: www.tenancy.govt.nz/disputes/Tribunal/making-an-application

Aratohu Tenant Advocacy

The Aratohu Tenant Advocacy is a comprehensive online resource that provides support and guidance to tenants and their advocates.

Website: tenant.aratohu.nz

Tenants Protection Association Auckland (TPA)

The Tenants Protection Association provides advocacy and support to renters in Auckland.

Website: tpaauckland.org.nz
Phone: 09 360 1473

Manawatū Tenants’ Union

The Manawatū Tenants’ Union provides advocacy and support to renters in the Manawatū region.

Website: www.mtu.org.nz
Email: info@mtu.org.nz
Phone: 06 357 7435

Renters United

Renters United is an organisation for renters in Wellington. They focus on organising renters and campaigning to make renting better for everyone.

Website: rentersunited.org.nz
Online contact form: rentersunited.org.nz/contact
Instagram: www.instagram.com/fairrentnow
Facebook: www.facebook.com/rentersunitednz

Community Housing Regulatory Authority

The Community Housing Regulatory Authority registers and regulates community housing providers.

Website: chra.hud.govt.nz
Email: CHRA@hud.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 141 411

Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB)

CAB provides free, confidential and independent information and advice.  See CAB’s website for valuable information on a range of topics.

Website: www.cab.org.nz
Phone: 0800 367 222
Facebook: www.facebook.com/citizensadvicenz

Find your local CAB office: www.cab.org.nz/find-a-cab

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